The cost of funerals can lead to debt without end of life planning; even without family inheritance you need estate planning

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Americans think it’s important to detail their dying wishes even though they aren't doing it

You can plan your meals, your workouts, and even your parties. Why not plan your own funeral?

Most of us believe we should plan them, but we haven’t done it yet. The National Funeral Directors Association says two-thirds of Americans know detailing their prearrangements are important but haven’t made it a priority to do so.

Funerals are expensive, but if families aren’t talking about what to do after life, they become more costly than they should be. Most of us say that pre-planning isn’t a priority for us, or that we haven’t thought about it. Others admit that funerals are costly and don’t want to deal with prepaying. Unfortunately, this leaves families in a huge financial bind once a relative passes — putting the onus on loved ones and possibly putting them into debt.

Pre-planning life after death

Dealing with a death is hard on anyone, but the added stress of dealing with funeral costs, estate management, and other issues makes mourning even more taxing. If two-thirds of Americans believe funeral planning is important, why are only one-fifth of them actually doing so?

It’s not easy to think about what someone else’s life will be like without you in it, but telling your loved ones what you’d like to happen to your possessions after you die will be the best gift you can give them after you pass. Many older Americans want to leave money behind for their loved ones, but they can’t muster up enough courage to talk about it, mostly because “it’s not appropriate.

Just because it’s an uncomfortable topic doesn’t mean you shouldn’t address it. The main reason why end-of-life wishes aren’t made is because we feel uneasy talking about it. More than 80 percent of Americans want to leave an inheritance and 50 percent even have a plan in place, but only 21 percent of us have talked to our loved ones about those plans. In fact, most children who are expecting an inheritance and know they are getting one will not get the amount of money they think they will.

Aside from good news like inheritance, not talking about life after death could stick your family with horrific debt collector headaches. While they may not be responsible for your debt after you die, they may not know that. They also may not know that debt collectors will try anyway. Talk to your family even if you don’t want to.

What others are doing when planning their funeral

Yes, there are even trends when it comes to end-of-life services.

The NFDA’s survey found nearly half of respondents say they have attended a funeral in a “non-traditional” location, like a family member’s home, an outdoor setting, or a place other than a funeral home. Religious incorporation is down 10 percentage points from this time five years ago, as more families are turning to non-religious ceremonies.

There’s also the increase in cremation, as 40 percent of Americans are choosing this option over the 35 percent that choose burials. But many Americans are unaware that they can skip embalming — whether for a burial or a cremation — since it’s not required. This also leads to more environmentally-friendly funeral options: Over half of respondents say they’d be open to using “greener” resources, like a biodegradable casket or formaldehyde-free embalming.

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Meet the Author

Dori Zinn

Dori Zinn


Zinn is a freelance journalist based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Budgeting & Saving, Credit & Debt, Family, Retirement

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